August 28, 2018
Relic, by Alan Dean Foster
Once Homo sapiens reigned supreme, spreading from star system to star system in an empire that encountered no alien life and thus knew no enemy . . . save itself. As had happened many times before, the basest, most primal human instincts rose up, only this time armed with the advanced scientific knowledge to create a genetically engineered smart virus that quickly wiped out humanity to the last man. That man is Ruslan, the sole known surviving human being in the universe. Rescued from the charnel house of his home planet by the Myssari—an intelligent alien race—Ruslan spends his days as something of a cross between a research subject and a zoo attraction. Though the Myssari are determined to resurrect the human race, using Ruslan’s genetic material, all he wants for himself and his species is oblivion. But then the Myssari make Ruslan an extraordinary offer: In exchange for his cooperation, they will do everything in their considerable power to find the lost home world of his species—an all-but-mythical place called Earth—and, perhaps, another living human. Thus begins an epic journey of adventure, danger, heartbreak, and hope, as Ruslan sets out in search of a place that may no longer exist—drawn by the slimmest yet most enduring hope.
At times predictable, and sometimes confounding, Alan Dean Foster is always a solid read. Alan is a known quantity with his writing, and Relic is just what you’d expect from him. Some authors, after decades of writing, will rest on their laurels, and churn out formulaic tomes to keep their existing audience coming back for more and more. Alan decides to write a story that while not exactly unique, does get the imagination going.
A dislikable protagonist is nothing new, and Ruslan certainly frustrates the reader with his antics, but there is a sad quality to the character that I can’t help but like. I can imagine what would be going through the mind of the last human ever, or how he would react to an extraterrestrial civilization that is so alien than we are.
That’s another interesting aspect of Relic: Anthropomorphism, or specifically a distinct lack of it. So many popular alien civilization stories are just bipeds with extra stuff added or taken away. It was a treat to read about a society not based on bipedalism, and more so how a biped would interact in an environment not designed for them.
I enjoyed Relic, as I knew I would. I continue to see Alan at cons, and he’s always an interesting visit. Relic is a solid four stars, and I’d love to read another book in the series, especially after the ending.
Bestselling science fiction writer Alan Dean Foster was born in New York City in 1946, but raised mainly in California. He received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA in 1968, and a M.F.A. in 1969. Foster lives in Arizona with his wife, but he enjoys traveling because it gives him opportunities to meet new people and explore new places and cultures. This interest is carried over to his writing, but with a twist: the new places encountered in his books are likely to be on another planet, and the people may belong to an alien race.